Resilience is at the front of all of our minds these days. It’s a bit of a trite word, often used to try and capture a range of activities that organizations perform to protect their business. Sometimes it is an unrealistic idea that everybody should smile their way through a crisis. To clarify exactly what resilience is, let’s go back to the basics. A simple definition is, “the ability to persist in the face of challenges and to bounce back from adversity”.1 That means that resilience is a feature, an outcome, or a principle. It is not a program or discipline, and it’s not a good or service.
Team resilience is a little more developed. One definition is, “the capacity of a team to withstand and overcome stressors in a manner that enables sustained performance”.2 Resilience is about going the distance. While leading organizations are reinforcing their resilience by reviewing their supply bases and asset footprints, digitizing their operations, and fostering internal agility3, what does resilience mean for everyday teams?
Personal resilience is important because it protects individual well-being from anxiety, stress, and discomfort. Being resilient doesn’t mean we don’t experience these things, it just means that we are able to recover from them or adjust to them if we have to. As leaders, we need to be highly resilient. We are usually the first to see or hear about change. We are often the ones who deal with the most uncertainty. We also need to be the sounding board for questions and concerns from our teams when changes or stressors are happening. We’ve written about important empathy practices in leadership and why it’s important to embrace failure. These are practices we can use to act our way into resilience.
Team resilience is different. It is typically practiced in three distinct stages surrounding a crisis: minimizing, managing, and mending.4 That means that resilient teams anticipate challenges and plan for them, and watch closely for hazards and threats before they occur. When they do occur, resilient teams, act quickly to understand problems and react to them methodically. Finally, they recover from the stress, learn from the experience, and adapt their processes accordingly.5
Modern, competitive work teams need to be resilient if their organizations are going to be successful. The modern marketplace is faster and more productive than ever before, and that means we need to be able to move quickly, even after stumbling. We know that psychological resilience can be trained and taught, even in children as an early intervention for mental health distress.6 But we need to be clear about what we are trying to train: personal resilience is important but team resilience will protect every member of the team and their work.
A lot of companies are going to try and sell you resilience training and consulting in the next couple of years. If they are promising to “make” you resilient, run the other way. Remember that resilience is a feature and an outcome: teams are resilient because of the actions they take. It is going to take time and practice, but you can start right now. Here are some things you can do to build your team’s resilience:
- Learn how to anticipate and plan for shocks and stressors. Know your risks, have a plan for them, and watch for indicators that risk is about to materialize. Never wait for the problem to come to you.
- Learn how to execute. If resilience means adjusting to change, we need to be able to actually make changes. That means quickly analyzing, communicating, and then leading change implementation or crisis response.
- Learn how to measure and adapt from successes and opportunities. Conduct an After Action Review and get honest as a team about what went well and what didn’t. Your future selves will thank you.
At Gasparotto Group we offer training courses that teach resilience, planning, and execution concepts. You can reinforce that knowledge with customizable workshops and training sessions. Start your path to building a resilient team today with leadership development and experiential learning solutions.
Written by Simon Wells
Gasparotto Group helps organizations create cultures that develop highly effective leaders and build strong, resilient teams.
- Reivich, K., and Seligman, M. (2011). “Master resilience training in the U.S. Army”. American Psychologist. Washington, D.C.: American Psychological Association. p.1.
- Alliger et al. (2015). “Team resilience: How teams flourish under pressure.” In Organizational Dynamics, 44. doi:10.1016/j.orgdyn.2015.05.003. p. 177
- McKinsey & Co. (2021, February 9). “The need for operational resiliency”. McKinsey & Co. Retrieved April 15th, 2022 from hyperlink. para. 4
- Alliger et al., p. 178
- Ibid., pp. 178-180
- Barankin, T. and Khanlou, N. (n.d.). “Growing up resilient: ways to build resilience in children and youth”. Centre for Addiction and Mental Health. Retrieved April 15th, 2022 from hyperlink